The rich aren't that different in "Friends With Money."
They bicker with their spouses. They make bad choices. They wonder what they're doing with their lives as they hit their mid-40s, all of which writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Walking and Talking," "Lovely and Amazing") depicts with her typically observant dialogue and wry humor.
You could call it an intelligent chick flick. The only thing that's wrong with it is that it leaves you wanting more. (How rare is that? In a world where filmmakers can't seem to restrain themselves, and most movies are too long, this one actually feels too short.)
The excellent ensemble of Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack get the pleasure of breathing life into Holofcener's well-drawn characters; they talk like real people talk when no one else is around.
Aniston plays Olivia, a single, aimless pothead who quit her job as a teacher at an exclusive Los Angeles school and now ekes out a living cleaning houses. When we first see her, she's flushed from having just finished pleasuring herself with a client's sex toy; later she will troll from one department store to another, mooching free samples of overpriced face cream because she can't afford to buy them. These small details tell us everything we need to know about her.
The other actresses play her married friends, who feel sorry for her until their own seemingly perfect personal lives begin to crumble.
Keener's Christine and her husband, David (Jason Isaacs) are a screenwriting duo in the midst of adding a second floor to their home, which will offer them ocean views from their bedroom while blocking everyone else's, making them neighborhood pariahs.
McDormand co-stars as Jane, a fashion designer living in a stunning modern house with her husband, Aaron (Simon McBurney), whose love of clothing and slightly effeminate manner make everyone suspect he's gay.
The wealthiest, happiest and least developed pair are Cusack's Franny and her husband, Matt (Greg Germann), whose source of money is unspecified and unlimited, and whose biggest quibble is over how much to spend on shoes for their kids.
Money changes everythingBut Franny also delivers one of the film's most piercing lines: "I sometimes wonder if we met now, we'd be friends," she says of Olivia. They're all incredibly different women — Holofcener never indicates how they met even in an offhanded way, which isn't a big deal but it would be nice to know — and as they mature they're finding that money, or a lack thereof, is becoming an increasingly unavoidable topic.
Having gotten into a questionable relationship with Franny's personal trainer (Scott Caan plays the shameless weasel), Olivia decides she wants to become a trainer, too — even though she hates working out — and needs to borrow $1,800 to get certified.
The conversation gets even more uncomfortable when Franny suggests spending that money on therapy instead: "Are you trying to make me feel bad?" she ultimately asks.
"No!" Olivia shoots back. "I don't think."
Like "The Good Girl," "Friends With Money" proves once again that, when given the chance, Aniston is just as good at playing sad, troubled characters as she is at bright situation comedy.
Meanwhile, Jane is on the verge of a breakdown, snapping at strangers for stepping ahead of her in line or taking the parking spot she was waiting for in front of the 7-Eleven — a surge of frustration everyone can relate to. And Christine and David find that expanding their house is actually driving them apart, ruining both their personal and professional relationships.
Whatever happens, though, these women stay loyal to each other, a bond Holofcener depicts in a graceful, believable, effortless manner.